Courtesy of Lynne Bonnett

At the end of August, the Greater New Haven Green Fund announced that eight local environmental organizations will receive grants this year.

The Green Fund distributed almost $60,000 in total to the eight organizations with the aim of supporting sustainability and climate projects in New Haven. The fund also awarded microgrants to a number of other local environmental initiatives. Among the list of chosen projects are plans for community gardens, bicycle infrastructure, educational initiatives at local schools and clean water advocacy. Despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the recipient organizations have been utilizing the Green Fund grants to move forward with their work.

“We hope to engage and empower citizens and organizations to help create clean, healthy and environmentally sustainable communities,” Green Fund President Lynne Bonnett said in an email to the News.

One of this year’s Green Fund grant recipients, New Haven/León Sister City Project (NHLSCP), is working to engage more community members in their work and make environmental activism more accessible.

The NHLSCP is an organization that focuses on the intersection of climate activism and social justice work in both New Haven and the Nicaraguan city of León. The NHLSCP applied for the Green Fund grant with a proposal to expand environmental education in New Haven schools and to hold events centered around youth climate action. 

Since receiving the Green Fund’s grant, the NHLSCP has been reaching out to administrators and teachers at seven different high schools in the New Haven area, advocating for the implementation of more comprehensive environmental education programs in the classroom. They were also involved with organizing and outreach for the climate march held on the New Haven Green on Sept. 20. 

According to NHLSCP Program Director Chris Schweitzer, these new projects are around 90 percent youth-run. In addition to providing event funding, the Green Fund grants allowed the NHLSCP to place young people from the New Haven community in leadership roles.

“It’s paying for the stipends for the youth, which is important because we want any youth to be able to be involved,” Schweitzer told the News. “And a lot of youths that are lower-income need to find work or some kind of income, so this means it’s available. Anybody can be engaged.”

Another organization that received a Green Fund grant this year is Common Ground –– a group that focuses on connecting the New Haven community to their urban environment through sustainability education, farming and food distribution.

According to Disha Patel, a food justice education coordinator for Common Ground, their proposal when applying for the grant in January had been for in-person farm and garden workshops. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the majority of these workshops have been held virtually. The workshops have focused on topics ranging from seed saving and gardening to the relationship between food production and climate change.

The Green Fund grant has also allowed Common Ground to offer all of their workshops for free this fall. In addition, Common Ground is creating food kits for the workshops, which they are distributing free of charge to participating families.

“To know that now we can offer this for free because of the funding has allowed us to take our educational programs outward,” Patel told the News. “We’re looking to the community as a source of knowledge for leading classes and being able to pay them, inviting anyone from the community to join us as well. A lot of folks that have been teaching the classes have been predominantly BIPOC folks, and predominantly from the New Haven community.”

The process of selecting the Green Fund grant recipients began in late January this year, after the deadline for submitting proposals. Proposals that receive funding have to be approved by a grant committee and the Green Fund’s board of directors. Grant recipients are chosen based on a number of criteria, including the feasibility of their projects and their impact on environmental equity.

These larger-scale grants are intended to fund the chosen projects for the period of one year, during which time the organizations are asked to submit progress reports to the Green Fund.

Bonnett told the News that in its allocation of grant money, the Green Fund aims to support local groups that have previously not had access to enough resources.

“One can’t help but be amazed by the accomplishments from those that have never received a grant before and have used our grant as a springboard to obtain other grant funding in their future,” Bonnett wrote in an email to the News. “We view our seed funding as critical support for our communities.”

The Greater New Haven Green Fund was founded in 2006.

Sylvan Lebrun | sylvan.lebrun@yale.edu